Nativity! is a 2009 British Christmas comedy film directed by Debbie Isitt and released on 27 November 2009 and the first installment in the Nativity film series. The film stars Martin Freeman and Ashley Jensen. The film was written by its director, Debbie Isitt, but was also partially improvised.[2] The film premiered on 23 November 2009 in the SkyDome Arena, Coventry, England.[3]

Theatrical release poster
Directed byDebbie Isitt[1]
Produced byNick Jones[1]
Written byDebbie Isitt
StarringMartin Freeman
Marc Wootton
Ashley Jensen
Jason Watkins
Alan Carr
Pam Ferris
Ricky Tomlinson
Music byNicky Ager
Debbie Isitt
CinematographySean Van Hales
Edited byNicky Ager
Mirrorball Films
BBC Films
Screen WM
Distributed byFreestyle Releasing
E1 Entertainment
Release date
  • 27 November 2009 (2009-11-27)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$8,494,434

It was released in cinemas on 27 November, three weeks after rival festive film Disney's A Christmas Carol opened. A sequel, Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger, was released in November 2012. A third film, Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?, was released in November 2014[4]. A fourth film, Nativity Rocks!, was released in October 2018.


Paul Maddens is a teacher at St Bernadette's Catholic primary school in Coventry. Paul once had ambitions of being successful as an actor, producer or director. Every year St Bernadette's competes with Oakmoor, a local Protestant private school, to see who can produce the best nativity play.

Paul hates Christmas because his girlfriend at drama school, Jennifer Lore, broke up with him at Christmas. The headteacher, Mrs Bevans, tasks him with running their nativity play this year, and gives him a new teaching assistant named Mr Poppy, who turns out to be more of a child than the students.

Paul's rival from drama school, Gordon Shakespeare, runs the nativity plays at Oakmoor. Determined not to be seen as a failure, Paul lies to Shakespeare about how a Hollywood producer, Jennifer, will be turning his production into a Hollywood film (though he hasn't spoken to her in five years). Mr Poppy overhears this and is so excited that he spreads the story to the press. Paul finds his lie is out of control, and all he can do is go along with it as media attention mounts and the children get very excited.

The children are nowhere near as talented as the Oakmoor students, and Paul has little confidence in their abilities. The enthusiastic Mr Poppy helps him and the class to create an energetic, interesting nativity which showcases all of the children's unique (and often strange) talents.

Paul tries to contact Jennifer to make the lie come true, even travelling to America to persuade her to visit. It turns out that she is only the secretary to a film producer, and he returns home disappointed.

Amid continuing media attention and the Mayor's kind offer to allow the play to be performed in the historical ruins of Coventry Cathedral, Mrs Bevans discovers that the Hollywood story was a lie and cancels the play, advising Paul to start looking for another job. Paul shouts at Mr Poppy about everything going wrong, but comes to his senses when facing his disappointed class and decides that the show must go on.

The play is performed at the cathedral to an audience of the children's parents and family friends. The production is amazingly good, to the surprise of everyone involved. Halfway through, Gordon climbs on stage to tell everybody that there is nobody from Hollywood there and the entire story was a lie. Luckily, a helicopter flies over and Mr Poppy declares that it's Hollywood arriving; the show continues, and Jennifer and her producer indeed appear at the back to watch. Paul joins them and, still in love, kisses Jennifer. The play ends with everyone, including Gordon and Mrs Bevans (who has a change of heart), is reunited onstage to celebrate the children's success.

As the film closes, Paul and Jennifer are shown decorating his house together for Christmas, reunited at last.


Mr Maddens' ClassMr Shakespeare's Class
Alexandra Allen as CleoAidofe McLeod as Grace
Ben Wilby as BobAnna Price as Ellen
Bernard Mensah as TJArun Nahar as Jake
Brandon McDonald as OliBessie Cursons as Christy
Cadi Mullane as CrystalBethany Carter as Daisy
Caitlin Cronin as LucyCharlie Dixon as Thomas
Dominic McKernan as DanCherie Ng as Nicola
Ellie Coldicutt as BethEleanor Bonas as Rachel
Faye Dolan as JadeFrancesca York as Caroline
James Warner as BuddyFreddie Watkins as Sebastian
Jake Pratt as AlfieGeorgina Owen as Emily
Joe Lane as EdwardHannah Ciotknowski as Elizabeth
Joshan Patel as BillHarriet Kilner as Charlotte
Krista Hyatt as BeckyHayley Downing as Victoria
Maeve Dolan as SamImogen Stern as Phoebe
Michael McAuley as WilliamKatie Maguire as Megan
Milly Webb as NeveKatie Stafford as Molly
Morgan Brennan as CharlotteLauren Downing as Joanne
Rebecca Maguire as SaffronLily-Rose Sharry as Lynette
Reece Stowe as FraserMichael Brown as Charles
Rhyannon Jones as AliceMolly Burton as Catherine
Sam Tott as MattMi Tuulikki Kelly as Lorna
Sydney Isitt-Ager as SadieSafiya Asharia as Sophie
Thomas McGaritty as ZackSalim Zayyan as Percival
Oscar Steer as AuditioneeTaylor Drew as Harry
Harvey Flanagan as TyreseChris Reynolds as Freddy


The film was first announced in August 2008, when it was announced Martin Freeman would star.[6] Principal photography began in the same month.

Box office

When released in the United Kingdom, the movie opened at #5, taking £794,314 at the box office in the United Kingdom. In its third week, the movie rose to #4, and in the end made £5,187,402.[7]


Stage musical

On 17 November 2016, it was announced that the film will be adapted into a stage musical, with it making its world premiere at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in October 2017, before touring to Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, Sheffield Lyceum Theatre, Manchester Palace Theatre, Plymouth Theatre Royal, Eventim Apollo, and Leeds Grand Theatre over the Christmas season. It was written and directed by Debbie Isitt, with music by Isitt and Nicky Ager, choreography by Andrew Wright and design by David Woodhead.

It was produced by Jamie Wilson, Entertainment One, Ramin Sabi, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry and Birmingham Repertory Theatre.


  1. "Principal photography commences on Debbie Isitt's Nativity". BBC. 12 August 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  2. PA Entertainment (11 August 2008). "BBC's Nativity comedy". Virgin Media. Archived from the original on 14 August 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  3. "Nativity night comes to Coventry". BBC Coventry & Warwickshire. BBC. 24 November 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2009.
  4. "Debbie Isitt on Twitter".
  5. McMullen, Marion (17 September 2008). "Alan Carr and Martin Freeman put Coventry on movie map". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 21 September 2008.
  6. "Martin Freeman to star in 'Nativity'". 12 August 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  7. UK Film Council - UK Box Office: 12 - 14 February 2010
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